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The merits of these men, who would not regard them with wonder? They with one accord did not desert the post to which Greece had assigned them, but gladly offered up their own lives for the common salvation of all Greeks, and preferred to die bravely rather than to live shamefully. The consternation or the Persians also, no one could doubt that they felt it. [2] For what man among the barbarians could have conceived of that which had taken place? Who could have expected that a band of only five hundred ever had the daring to charge against the hundred myriads? Consequently what man of later times might not emulate the valour of those warriors who, finding themselves in the grip of an overwhelming situation, though their bodies were subdued, were not conquered in spirit? These men, therefore, alone of all of whom history records, have in defeat been accorded a greater fame than all others who have won the fairest victories. For judgement must be passed upon brave men, not by the outcome of their actions, but by their purpose; in the one case Fortune is mistress, in the other it is the purpose which wins approval. [3] What man would judge any to be braver than were those Spartans who, though not equal in number to even the thousandth part of the enemy, dared to match their valour against the unbelievable multitudes? Nor had they any hope of overcoming so many myriads, but they believed that in bravery they would surpass all men of former times, and they decided that, although the battle they had to fight was against the barbarians, yet the real contest and the award of valour they were seeking was in competition with all who had ever won admiration for their courage. [4] Indeed they alone of those of whom we have knowledge from time immemorial chose rather to preserve the laws of their state than their own lives, not feeling aggrieved that the greatest perils threatened them, but concluding that the greatest boon for which those who practise valour should pray is the opportunity to play a part in contests of this kind. [5] And one would be justified in believing that it was these men who were more responsible for the common freedom of the Greeks than those who were victorious at a later time in the battles against Xerxes; for when the deeds of these men were called to mind, the Persians were dismayed whereas the Greeks were incited to perform similar courageous exploits. [6]

And, speaking in general terms, these men alone of the Greeks down to their time passed into immortality because of their exceptional valour. Consequently not only the writers of history but also many of our poets have celebrated their brave exploits; and one of them is Simonides, the lyric poet, who composed the following encomium1 in their praise, worthy of their valour:“ Of those who perished at Thermopylae
All glorious is the fortune, fair the doom;
Their grave's an altar, ceaseless memory's theirs
Instead of lamentation, and their fate
Is chant of praise. Such winding-sheet as this
Nor mould nor all-consuming time shall waste.
This sepulchre of valiant men has taken
The fair renown of Hellas for its inmate.
And witness is Leonidas, once king
Of Sparta, who hath left behind a crown
Of valour mighty and undying fame.
Simonides fr. 4 (Bergk)

1 Frag. 4 (Bergk). "Encomium" is not to be taken in the technical sense it had in the fifth century B.C. There is considerable reason to think that the following lines were part of a poem sung at the shrine of the fallen in Sparta. See C. M. Bowra in Class. Phil. 28 (1933), pp. 277-281.

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